Put Federal Spending Information Online
"We'll put government data online and use technology to shine a light on spending."-- Flint, Mich.
DECEMBER 08, 2009
Orszag Orders Agencies To Disclose Data
"The White House on Tuesday instructed every federal agency to publish before the end of January at least three collections of 'high value' government data on the Internet that never have been previously disclosed," AP reports.
The memo also asked agencies to inform the public about their efforts to increase transparency, to disclosure useful information without waiting for FOIA requests and do reduce the backlog of such requests.
By ZACK HALE
As watchdogs try to assess the status of President Obama's promise to reform federal contracting, critics continue to complain that the administration has taken too long to post spending data on Recovery.gov.
Interestingly, Obama's transparency efforts dating from his time as a freshman senator seem to be faring better than the administration's newer ventures. Well before his move to the White House, Obama sponsored the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which required a single searchable Web site to provide specific information about federal contracts, such as the amount and type of the award, and the name of its recipient. The result -- USASpending.gov -- is still the most complete federal contracting database.
In late May, the site began posting detailed data identifying grants and contracts awarded under the Recovery Act -- a move that has caused a stir among government watchdog groups, such as OMB Watch and the Sunlight Foundation.
While he applauds the breadth and level of transparency USASpending.gov provides, OMB Watch Executive Director Gary Bass questions why the Office of Management and Budget's own Web site, Recovery.gov -- which was created with the explicit purpose of tracking stimulus funds -- is lagging far behind the site Obama laid the groundwork for in 2006.
Recovery.gov provides reams of general information on various agency programs but so far has failed to provide the kind of specifics about federal contracts that USAspending.gov is already posting.
Moreover, officials from the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board have said such figures won't be available on Recovery.gov until Oct. 10, the first time the OMB is required by law to make them available.
To be fair, Recovery.gov is a brand new Web site that, given its gargantuan task, will take time to perfect, said Ed Pound, a spokesman for Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery and Transparency board.
"You can expect a massive influx of data come October," Pound said.
But Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, said the OMB is treating the October deadline as the "drop-dead" date to get the site perfect, rather than posting the data incrementally as it becomes available.
"When you get swamped with data like that it becomes much harder for the public and journalists to sort through, and you're going to get an unmanageable amount of data all at once," Allison said. "Some people will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, but it's much better to get data in increments as opposed to all at once."
USASpending.gov makes its data publicly available via an API -- a tool used by Web developers to make sharing easy. USASpending.gov obtains its data from the Federal Data Procurement System -- a system that provides real-time data from agencies as they announce contracts.
"There should be no reason why you can't get this information from the agencies' [news] feeds," Bass said. "It exists, and taxpayers should be able to find it with ease."
APRIL 27, 2009
Recovery.gov Solicits New Ideas
The site intended to track stimulus spending is seeking help from IT vendors to improve users' ability to monitor where tax monies are going. As it stands, slow reporting from agencies and difficult-to-use navigation have garnered the site poor marks compared with its private-sector competitor, Recovery.org.
FEBRUARY 17, 2009
In conjunction with Obama's signing of the stimulus bill, his administration launched Recovery.gov, a site that promises to let users track where the stimulus money is going. Federal agencies are slated to begin reporting budget data on March 3.
JANUARY 22, 2009
Ethics Agenda Section Disappears